DETROIT (AP) — The parents of a teenager who killed four students at Michigan’s Oxford High School lost an appeal Tuesday and will face trial on involuntary manslaughter charges, a rare case of prosecutors attempting to pin some responsibility for a school shooting on the perpetrator’s family.
James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of making a gun accessible to Ethan Crumbley and ignoring his mental health needs. The state appeals court said in March that the couple could face trial, and the Michigan Supreme Court let that decision stand in a one-sentence order.
Prosecutors in suburban Detroit had to show only that there was probable cause to put the parents on trial, a low threshold at this stage. The appeals court noted that an Oakland County jury will hear a more expansive case from all sides.
The shooter killed Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling at Oxford High, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) north of Detroit, in November 2021. Six students and a teacher were also wounded.
Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to terrorism and murder. A judge last week said he is eligible for life in prison without parole.
Attorneys for the parents insist the school shooting was not foreseeable. They acknowledge that bad decisions were made but not ones that should rise to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The teen and his parents met with school staff the day of the shooting after a teacher noticed violent drawings, but no one checked his backpack for a gun. He was allowed to stay.
The 17-year-old, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, will be sentenced Dec. 8. The judge will have the option of giving him a prison term that would make him eligible for parole in the decades ahead.
The Crumbley parents have been in custody since shortly after the shooting, unable to afford a $500,000 bond. Their son is in the same jail, though they have no contact with him.
Defense lawyers declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s order, citing a gag order.
In Newport News, Virginia, the mother of a 6-year-old boy who wounded a teacher recently pleaded guilty to child neglect. The boy had used her gun.
In the Michigan case, Colin King, a psychologist who has met with the teen, described him as a “feral child” who was neglected by his parents. Judge Kwamé Rowe said his home life was “not ideal,” with his parents often drinking alcohol and arguing, but “not terrible.”
The teen “appeared to have a loving and supportive family,” Rowe said Friday. “He went on family vacations, owned several pets and had visits from family. … In defendant’s own words, his childhood was ‘good.’”
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